What will climate be in the future?

This activity introduces learners to the IPCCs future predictions, supporting them to use projection graphs to answer questions about emissions and global warming projections.     

© Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). All Rights Reserved.

~ 1 hour
KS3

Preparation

Download the resources below.

Location

  • Indoors

Curriculum links

  • Geography

Step by step

Share the contextual information and tasks below with students to guide them through the activity.

How do scientists predict the future climate?

Scientists use computer models to predict future climate. These are called models. Modelling is a way of predicting the future taking account a range of variables. The most useful models are highly complex three dimensional general circulation models with sub models for ocean, atmosphere, land biosphere and ice and the interrelationships between them. The IPCC uses countless combinations of 22 different models to arrive at its predictions. There are lots of variables that are hard to predict including:

  • How much of the current temperature variation is down to CO2 emissions?
  • What will clouds do? Will they heat us up or cool us down in the long run?
  • How will natural carbon sinks of the oceans and forests behave in the future?
  • With less snow and Ice will we be absorbing far more incoming radiated heat as our surfaces will be less reflective (the albedo effect?)
  • What will be the effect of population growth, industrial production and effect of UN strategies?

Starter

Introduce the following future predictions:  

  • IPCC 2100 best case scenario= temp rise of 1.4C and sea level rise of 20cm.  
  • Worst case scenario + 5.8C and sea level rise of 88cm.
  • Discuss these predictions and ask learners how they think scientists make these predictions?

Main Activity

The scenario factsheet can be used to explain what the different predictions. Do not forget that these predictions are uncertain as they are based on scenarios that have not yet happened.

Use the graphs on the projections activity sheet to answer the questions on emissions and global warming projections.

Plenary

What is the most likely scenario – use a continuum to decide where to stand, from most likely to least likely.